From plastics to pesticides, it seems like every week delivers fresh news about the dangers of endocrine disruptors--chemicals in the environment that alter the body's hormones and can lead to reproductive, developmental, neurologic and immune problems and cancer.
Industry regulation and individual consumer choice can reduce exposure to such chemicals, but there are few options to counteract damage that has already occurred.
Now new research conducted in worms suggests a path toward changing that.
A naturally occurring antioxidant known as Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, reversed most of the reproductive harms caused by exposure to the plasticizer BPA (bisphenol A) in Caenorhabditis elegans worms, according to a study led by the lab of Monica Colaiácovo, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.
The findings, published Feb. 6 in Genetics , provide the first evidence that at least some BPA-induced fertility damage can be undone.
Chemicals are so prevalent in our environment that it was critical for us to focus first on identifying which ones are toxic and how they may affect human reproductive health.
Now, as we continue to screen for and study how chemicals affect reproductive health, we can also ask the next really important question: Given that we're all exposed, how can we mitigate those effects in order to improve fertility and have healthier births?" Monica Colaiácovo, senior author of the study
CoQ10 is produced by the body and can be found in many foods, particularly meat and fish. It is also available in over-the-counter dietary supplements, but those are neither regulated nor FDA-approved for any health conditions, and they occasionally cause side effects.
Although CoQ10 is already being recommended in some fertility clinics in the U.S. and Canada, the research team cautions that their findings must be replicated in further animal studies and in human clinical trials before the enzyme is prescribed for BPA-induced fertility damage.
Colaiácovo's lab has documented the reproductive repercussions of many environmental chemicals in worms, including BPA.
When work from her lab and others suggested that BPA hampers reproductive health in part by causing oxidative damage, "it made sense to look at antioxidants" for help, she said.
The team started with CoQ10 because it's readily available in stores, inexpensive and relatively safe, so if it proved effective in animal models, it would be well positioned for testing in people, said Colaiácovo. Related Stories
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